IT policies await final revisions


A “controversial” Information Technology policy that sparked debate in late November of last semester is headed toward final revisions.

The measure, Policy 5.5020, stated “university officials and upper management, under the direction of the University General Counsel, can access, seize and/or commandeer any and all physical or electronic resources as deemed necessary to address a given situation.”

Bob Owen, vice president of the Information Technology department, said faculty and students suggested changes in two policies, including the acceptable usage policy. 

“The first suggestion was to insert language that said that any actions that we took to enforce policies would be in accordance with all applicable state regulations, laws, rulings and Attorney General opinions,” he said.

“The second thing we changed was that, even though this was already the law, SGA… and academic senate requested we place in the policy a statement that no one from the university can seize a person’s digital assets without a court order.” 

The university always functioned within the limits of the law regarding both policies, but the need for clarity led to the IT department’s revisions regarding the second suggestion, Owen said. 

“We can’t take a student’s laptop without a court order, or an employee’s personal iPad without the court order; it’s the law and we’ve always functioned under the law,” he said. 

Nine policies underwent revisions beginning last year. Three policies went before senate faculty, and one statute, Policy 5.5010, passed with no discussion. 

The department sought revisions on policies to avoid duplication and to provide further clarity to students, faculty and staff, Owen said. 

“It’s a good idea in Information Technology to routinely revisit your policies and make sure everything is current,” he said. 

The revised policies go back to the Faculty Senate for final approval later this semester.

WKU administration also dealt with another computer-related policy under fire. 

Last October, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) gave WKU a red-light rating for an email policy it deemed violated freedom of speech. 

The policy warned students that “email resources” could be “revoked at any time for inappropriate conduct” due to materials “likely to be perceived as offensive.” 

Howard Bailey, vice president for Student Affairs, said issues and confusion surrounding the policy were resolved.

“I’m not sure I even want to say ‘corrected,’” he said. “We’ve modernized the language for some of those that criticized the policies and had issues with it.”